Monday, November 10, 2008

Racers insurance hammered - Steve Poizner launches investigation of Baja racing shooting incident! Notorious Baja 1000 Racer Shooting EXPOSED!


Readers Note: Yes, the moto rider shot in Baja pre-running for the Baja 1000, to be on in a couple days did survive. Barely. [CLICK HERE Baja Racing will Webcast LIVE! the Baja 1000 starting on November 18, from Ensenada Baja, Mexico CLICK HERE]

We are treating this situation as it should be, a serious emergency medical evac, started bad.

Baja Racers comment on Baja Racing continuing coverage: "THIS WHOLE STORY IS EPIC". Yes, an Epic Baja Racing story!

Baja Racing continues to follow the aftermath of the biggest story in off-road racing right now. What the hell happened to that American moto guy pre-running in Baja Mexico? How and why did it happen?

We are digging up old background pieces of the puzzle and will keep you updated on the fresh stuff. Including reporting on the California licensed Mexican insurance brokers that were fined and suspended for selling void Mexican insurance policies. Yes, if you are a heavy Baja visitor, you probably went to Mexico thinking you had coverage and didn't!

Two companies based in San Diego, selling Mexican insurance policies sold worthless paper to customers long enough to merit fines and suspensions from the Department of Insurance.

November 10, 8:45 PM UPDATED

The bigger coverup

From a Marketing company selling off-road racing products, "you guys put up those photos with all the blood?"

Three years ago, almost to the day, Baja Safari wanted to hire the same marketing company that later would make the "blood" comment. SCORE knew Baja Safari had alot of insider information and did everything it could to try to keep the company out of its sphere of influence. Including telling other companies not to work with the skilled, insider company.

The Baja racer shooting, exposed the weak support system that racers hoped will get them home in a bad situation. The world-wide exposure showed the width & depth of the crime situation in Baja Mexico and lack of full-time services available to the entire racing community. Instant claimed the services were full-time, but, obviously are not.

The two glaring exposures everyone in Mexican off-road racing have been actively covering up, for over a year. Some, for years.

The failed emergency call is not the first time Instants program failed, just the first time it failed and its been made so public. Thanks to the internet, the Associated Press and for sure, Cameron Steele's phone call to the Desert Bull. In the old days, none of this would have happened and the easy little cover-up would be complete

The shooting victims friends/family were "members", made the call and no one answered four calls, four times! The company sold by Instant, under license by the state, for medical evacs, failed. That's all they do and they failed.

Licensed by the State of California Department of Insurance. These are services, partially supported by the "racers insurance fees", every racer pays, every team, every race.

The reaction from the off-road community to the shooting of a fellow racer has been interesting. Most people want to cover it up and forget about it. That is, of course, after they learn the lesson of the incident and keep it to themselves. Or brag about the details over drinks, to friends.

The SCORE Insurance Fees

"Your race entry fees cover some insurance. There is a $3M policy in place if you hurt or kill an American spectator or non-registered participant and a $100K policy if you hurt or kill a Mexican national. (Injuries with locals are typically resolved in 30 days for about $3-6K). SCORE thinks California case law had already proven that sponsors could not be successfully sued. The SCORE provided insurance also provides $25K supplemental health/injury insurance for banded participants such as drivers & co-drivers. It does not provide for ANY health insurance for racers or anyone else. The American policy is really designed to cover what is not covered by your existing coverage. For example, my personal insurance only covers 80% of a helicopter ride. That 20% would be picked up by SCORE, which could be several thousand dollars. The big gap is that registered/banded participants ARE not covered. Everyone signs a release of liability. The greatest liability risk not addressed are team drivers & co-drivers. For example, if a teams co-driver is injured- they can sue the team owner or SCORE or attempt to sue the sponsor and there is NO coverage from SCORE, that covers team owners. Team owners should try to have some coverage if it were not too expensive to protect team members and their families."

"Normally the SCORE insurance is viewed as secondary coverage. You submit any claims to your primary insurance company and the SCORE insurance will cover what is not paid by your provider (20%, etc). However, if you do not have primary insurance, 1) you should probably not be racing in Mexico but you can submit your bills through the SCORE coverage. Be advised that if you are injured in Mexico and are taken to the hospital you will need to come up with $250.00 at the hospital prior to being released. That is the hospital policy. You can pay with cash, credit card or wire transfer/western union from the states. Be sure to carry a copy of your passport, insurance card, identification card and some form of payment with you in your fanny pack. The $250.00 is usually above the emergency room co-payment here in the states. Typically it is $50. in the US depending on your insurance. Make sure to keep your paperwork because you can submit the paid bill to your insurance company for reimbursement of the amount above the reasonable and customary charges.
If you are unfortunate enough to be injured and transported to the hospital in Ensenada, which by the way is a stage 4 trauma center and has excellent doctors and staff, there should be an American Liaison there to help you understand the paperwork, procedures and help get you in contact with family, team members. Instant Mexico Auto Insurance is the official insurer of SCORE in Mexico."

The racers insurance fee charged by SCORE buys two things. Coverage in the United States for service and service in Mexico. It protects SCORE against the racers if there's a blowup. Like, if this shooting victim had died and the family sued SCORE. An insurance fee is paid by racers to cover the needs of the sanctioning body in handling extraordinary issues, like dead cows that had been hit by racers. This is Baja racing!

That's why SCORE is very big on asking if one is a 'participant' or 'pre-running' or merely 'a non-race incident'. These terms are catchwords for who is responsible for damages, medical service provision and mostly whether SCORE has to worry about the people invloved. Or paying the medical bills.

The official insurance company, then also gets a ton of business for being called a 'sponsor', the same one that gets the insurance fee. They get a lions share of chasers, racers followers, fans and other Mexico travellers from the SCORE publicity.

One chaser, a well-known, experienced racer, was chasing at a Baja race a few years ago. He was chasing, and insured by Instant, when he was forced off the road, almost totalled the truck. A very expensive truck, purpose built for Baja racing and chasing.

At the time, Baja Safari was the official club of Instant and the racer had purchased a membership to Baja Safari, in conjuction with his annual insurance policy. After calls to Instant, SCORE and Sal Fish weren't solving the racers insurance claim problems, he contacted Baja Safari. The club services rep was not surprised the claim wasn't being handled professionally.

Reports of claims problems has plagued Instant and the many problems overflowed for the club to hear about and require responses. Even a well known moderator of an internet site was damaged by bad claims services by Instant and he put them up on the site, hanging the company out to dry. But, still not getting help. He went on to call out the company, very publicly.

One of the superior services Baja Safari offered at the time, was a universal Mexican telephone service, that members could walk up to any 'pay phone' in Baja Mexico and simply dial the clubs special number, with no money or card. The call went to the clubs offices, 7/24/365. This was before the widespread cel phone systems explosion.

Some calls that came in were Instant customers with accidents, claims needs and questions. Because the Mexican insurance company that Instant represented, Instant is a 'brokerage', didn't have an '800' number that worked in Baja Mexico! Baja Safari often got the first calls for service from Instants customers.

This racers claim problems ultimately went to the Department of Insurance. Department investigators went to the racers place of business to interview him about the matter. Investigators, with badges and guns.

The bottom line to the racers claim problem was Instant delayed, SCORE ignored and only until the Department of Insurance got involved did any of the money problems get addressed. Finally, the claim payment did come in, only after Instant was not returning calls for months and the payment was for the smallest amount possible. Not making the racer whole or happy.

Another of the exposed issues was that any repairs done by the Mexican Insurance company had to be done in Mexico. Often the difference in the settlement values came down to 'Mexican vs. American repair and currency values'. Just another way the 'insurance' was actually a ruse, configured to always short the customer and "ensure" the broker made money.

The same broker who decides whether, you as a racer, gets air-evaced now, or you get to stay in a Mexican medical clinic and ground ambulanced out. Instant makes the decisions. Not you, not the medical services, Instant decides, the guys who MAY ultimately pay the bills. Didn't know that did you?

That's why you hear so many drama plots on the radio when 'incidents' are being discussed. Thanks to the weatherman channel for enabling the public to be witnesses to so many "family vs. medical provision" confrontations are made public.

Baja Safari determined after the Department investigations and the racers experiences, that any Mexican repair requirements established in the Mexican auto insurance policies, the questions about medical care provisions, precluded any fairness to the customers/racers. So, if you're down there with policies that require Mexican labor values, you're going to get screwed if you have a claim. Why carry an insurance policy if it really doesn't cover your interests?

By the way, the big teams don't use these insurance services. They use larger, more comprehensive policies that REALLY cover their interests. For small teams, chasers and the general public, there are more customer sensitive policies and companies. These organizations, have determined they want to do the customer a good turn, they want to be good business people and stay in business.

We have used sources inside Baja Safari, our parent company, because no other company was as close to the security net, insurance system racers count on every day in Mexico than Baja Safari. They even introduced some of the players in this story to each other.

The failed emergency call

The reason why Baja racing is so great for the fans? Everyone is so selfish, they ignore obvious risks, act like they are the only ones that matter and cause some of the best carnage in motorsports.

Do racers deserve full time services when they are not willing to pay for them? When they don't have the interest to form a racers association? And they don't stand up for themselves in these situations? Screw the racers.

Put simply, no matter what happens in the following months and years having to do with this shooting, the failed emergency evac calls and the Department of Insurance, YOU probably won't ever hear about how it all pans out.

Why? California is an insurance controlled state. In the Department of Insurance, there is no insurance company fraud. Only fraud against insurance companies. We told you we don't pull punches here. The Fraud Division of the Department of Insurance goes after ONLY fraud against insurance companies. Gives you the warm and fuzzies, right?

They assist consumers. At least they say they do. How about this, we'll tell you how we really feel about the State of California Department of Insurance. Just ask the recent fire victims of southern California.

Baja racers, you're on your own.

Gary Newsome
Baja Racing

Update: AP misreports the facts of the Baja racer Baja 1000 pre-runner shooting. From the story
: "Oscar Ramos, a lawyer helping Martz, said the San Diego-area man was probably shot mistakenly by a hunter. He believes this was a completely unfortunate accident," Ramos said. This attempted and failed cover-story is directly from Oscar Ramos. But, even more importantly is what's not reported. Sr. Ramos is THE SCORE representative in Mexico. SCORE is the official sanctioning body of the race, the Baja 1000, that the victim was pre-running their race course. During the legally registered prerun time.

Sr. Ramos IS THE ATTORNEY FOR SCORE IN MEXICO. He is not just, "a attorney helping".
He is the highest ranked SCORE official in Mexico. With ALL of the equal responsibilities. Assisting in this situation is his responsibility. The reports in the public domain about the required legal depositions, by the victim and witness, point to serious questions that only racers can answer. Like, if I can't trust anyone in the chain of responsibility of safety and security at Baja races, what am I doing in Mexico?

Baja Safari Mexico Club official club for many years

Scurrilous Details of how Baja racers have been treated for years by the American brokerage, representing the Mexican insurance company of the sanctioning body. Racers come out of the wood work in droves complaining about non-existent customer service, no claim service, damages and now charges of the medical emergency phone not answered!

The personal assistant of the owner of Instant once called the owner of Baja Safari, requesting help in obtaining an "Amigo de Baja" award for her boss. She said, "Mr. Andreoli would like one, can you help him to get one", in her broken English. Baja Safari had won an
"Amigo de Baja" award from the Baja California Mexico government, two years prior. They knew about the award because the owner of Baja Safari was not going to be in town (he was on an island in the middle of the Sea of Cortez) and he had sent the owner of Instant to fetch the award for him, at its presentation in Tijuana.

Ten years ago in 1998, Baja Safari was awarded the "Amigo de Baja" award, by the Baja California Mexico government for services provided to the state by Baja Safari Mexico Club and its associated tour services. That year, Baja Safari had completed a re-tooling of cultural travel for the state. Today, cultural tours are a mainstay in Mexico.

Lamenting not having an Amigo award, the personal assistant of Mr. Andreoli made the call requesting help. Instant and Baja Safari worked together for over five years. Starting with the original founder and owner of Instant, Mr. Andreoli, Sr. In fact, Baja Safari arranged the very first WORKING sat phones for the founders son, Hal Andreoli and SCORE President, Sal Fish. The first operational sat phones they had ever used.

Baja Safari had arranged communications, internet promotional services and other race oriented services for Instant for many years. One report Baja Safari originated for Instant developed into a long standing deal between SCORE and Ivor at Corporate Helicopters.


November 7, 2008 UPDATE
Baja pre-running racing shooting victim identified.
Steve Martz makes the Sports page!
Not for being an off-road moto racer or getting shot in Baja, but because he's got family in a real sport, Football. Here's the story printed in the San Francisco paper:

Along with crafting a game plan for Monday night's game against the Arizona Cardinals, 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz was also concerned with the condition of his nephew, Steve Martz, an off-road motorcycle racer who was shot in the chest while in Baja California a week ago.

Steve Martz, 38, of Ramona (San Diego County) was riding near the town of Valle de Trinidad, about 100 miles south of Tijuana, last Saturday when he was shot once in what was apparently a random attack. He was flown by helicopter to Tijuana where he had surgery and was later transported to a hospital in San Diego.

He is reported to be recovering after having his spleen removed.

"He's a lot better," Mike Martz said of his nephew. "He's out of critical care now. He wouldn't have made it if they didn't do the helicopter. He lost three pints of blood. They did a great job in the hospital there in Tijuana, wonderful job. It was a scary moment for all of us."

Steve Martz finished fifth in the 2007 Score Baja 1000 race in the open motorcycle class. He was riding the course in advance of the Nov. 19-23 event but was not registered as a participant in this year's race.

Fellow riders Dan Walsh and Aaron Cooper, with Martz at the time, got him to safety after he was shot from a distance of 75 feet. They drove him from the course to a paved road some miles away and helped arrange a medevac helicopter.

"I think that area down there is a dangerous area, even though they were on the course," the 49ers' coordinator said. "He (the assailant) didn't hesitate when he shot him."

Mike Martz, 57, was asked if his nephew ever took him for a ride in one of his off-road vehicles.

"In my body? Are you kidding?" he said. "I look like a sack of doorknobs anyway. First of all, I wouldn't fit in that thing. I'd try to get out of that thing, but the seat would still be attached to me." ###

Coverage Continues...

State of California Department of Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and now future Gubernatorial candidate in 2010, wants to get to the bottom of the Baja racer shooting! A representative of Commissioner Steve Poizner said today, "Mr. Poizner is concerned about the image of Mexican insurance and related products, sold under license of the State of California by brokers, being valid or worthless paper". "We know about the problems with racers because we previously investigated some issues, we know the companies in question".

Instant Mexico Auto Insurance of San Ysidro, California, SCOREs Official Mexico Insurance broker was reached for comment this morning, "No comment, no comment, no comment", was yelled to our reporter by Jeff Andreoli, of Instant. Andreoli lost his cool, yelling over the phone, then hanging up.

Poizners representative went further, "the shooting and all its ramifications will be investigated by the Commissioners office". Mr. Poizners website at

Baja Racing